How to get teaching experience (plus benefits of doing so)
Updated 21 August 2023
Many people consider a career in teaching to be the perfect blend of challenging and rewarding, but it can be hard to take the first steps in your career. Prospective teachers and educators now require more than just a university degree to pursue a career in teaching. Employers want to see that they've carried out work experience in schools to show that they can handle working in a lively classroom environment. In this article, we explain how to get teaching experience, explore the different kinds of teaching experience you could partake in and list the benefits of these roles.
How to get teaching experience
If you're interested in learning how to get teaching experience, consider these 10 options:
1. Contact schools
Local schools (both public and private) are always on the lookout for volunteer classroom assistants to support them in their daily operations. For example, you may work with a child with additional teaching needs or help mark papers, homework and exams. Alternatively, you could ask if it would be possible to shadow a teacher for a period of time. If possible, try to get experience with different year groups or capability levels so you gain an insight into different teaching styles and methodologies.
2. Become a tutor
Working as a tutor is a great way to gain further experience in education. As you're likely working one on one with your students, it also gives you a chance to develop a range of essential skills in a relaxed environment. You could offer your tutoring services online, in person or apply to work with an agency. If you're a university student, your university careers service may also be able to help you establish yourself as a tutor.
3. Contact local nurseries or childcare facilities
Working with younger children can also be a great way to gain further work experience in education, especially if you're considering working in primary education (ages four to 11) or with younger students in general. You could apply for a voluntary role at a nursery or preschool. This helps you gain insight into how different learning styles and approaches work for different age groups. For example, some students may require a more hands-on approach, while others prefer to figure things out alone before regrouping.
4. Ask friends and family who work in education
As with any career, your social network can be a great way to enhance your teaching prospects. This means it's a good idea to reconnect with friends or family members who may already work in the education sector. They may be able to organise a work placement on your behalf. If they can't find a placement for you right away, they may be able to give you some career guidance or suggest other tasks you could do to increase your employability. Either way, it's useful to make connections with others in the industry.
5. Contact youth groups
Volunteering with youth groups or after-school clubs is another invaluable method for gaining invaluable teaching work experience. Ideally, you ought to volunteer with a club that aligns with the course you want to teach. For example, working at a performing arts group is beneficial for budding music or drama teachers. If you're carrying out a work experience placement at a school, ask them if they need any support with their extra-curricular programmes. Getting involved in a school outside of regular working hours shows you're not only passionate about your career, but willing to put the work in.
6. Work as a babysitter or childminder
Babysitting or childminding can also be a great way to further enhance your teaching CV, especially if your duties involve helping children with their homework or studies. Similarly to tutoring, you get to work with students one on one, meaning you can learn how to tailor your skills to the needs of an individual student. This skill can still come in handy when working with larger groups, as it simply encourages you to be more mindful of different learning (and teaching) styles.
7. Apply for a work experience placement
If you're studying at university or college, you may be able to complete a work experience placement as part of your studies in place of one of your standard modules or assignments. Your university's careers development team or course leader can provide you with more information on this, and it's advisable to apply early to secure your place or go through the relevant background checks.
Alternatively, you could apply for programmes that offer taster sessions in different school environments. Work experience placements could also be useful for those considering a career in special education so you gain a deeper understanding of what this career entails.
8. Become a mentor
Another way in which you could gain experience in teaching is by working with local charities or organisations geared towards young people. Many of these facilities run mentorship programmes, where you're paired with a young person who may require guidance or support. For example, you may work to help them perform better academically or set goals for their future. Alternatively, you may be able to teach short courses for members of the charity. This helps you gain skills not only in teaching but also in planning and delivering fun, informative lessons.
9. Work as a supply teacher
If you're already a fully-qualified teacher but have yet to find a full-time position, working as a supply teacher for an agency could be a great way to take the first steps in your career. They usually provide you with the relevant teaching materials and you gain insight into how different teaching styles work. The more time you dedicate to developing your craft, the more employable you become. This could also help you to develop a working relationship with a school that might offer you a full-time role when one becomes available.
10. Attend a range of industry events
Another way in which you can gain teaching experience outside of the classroom is by attending industry events. For example, you could sign up for webinars or in-person lectures by leading industry professionals. Check online to see any events that may be coming up in your area. Not only is this a great way to enhance your skills, but it also helps you when it comes to networking and forging strong relationships with other teachers and educators. Attending events and seminars shows you're passionate about pursuing this career and developing your craft, which again helps to enhance your CV.
What is teaching experience?
Work experience introduces a prospective teacher to a school and classroom environment. It usually involves working with a student or group of students to support their learning. During this time, you gain practical skills on a variety of topics outside of your speciality area, learning how to interact with your students and how to create a positive classroom environment. Teacher work experience also helps you to refine your CV before applying for full-time positions or further training. Many trainee teachers also find it helps to determine what steps they're going to take next in their careers.
Related: How to create a teaching portfolio
What are the benefits of work experience for teaching?
Work experience for teachers is instrumental in becoming a good educator and finding full-time work. This is because it provides you with a practical insight into the world of teaching beyond what you learn in class or through textbooks. In short, work experience enables you to do the following:
develop a range of meaningful teaching and communication skills
improve your employability and CV
apply for your 'dream' job
increase your confidence as an educator
learn from other teachers
understand what working in a classroom is really like
build strong relationships with your students
Tips for applying for teaching experience
Whether you're applying to work for a teaching agency or after-school club, making an excellent first impression is essential. Many schools advertise openings on their websites, whilst others request you reach out via an agency. In your introductory email or call, make sure you do the following:
greet the recipient by name
briefly introduce yourself and explain why you're getting in touch
discuss your previous experience or qualifications
explain what you're looking for in this position
note your availability and potential start dates
leave contact details so they can reach out to you at their own leisure
thank them for their time and consideration
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